Comics Alliance Recaps ‘The Walking Dead’ Ep. 4.03: ‘Isolation’ [Spoilers]
Season four of The Walking Dead, AMC’s television adaptation of the Eisner-winning Image Comics series created by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore and drawn by Charlie Adlard is underway. While the survivors grapple with the apocalypse and each other, ComicsAlliance’s John Parker will be following along all season to see who lives, who dies, and who bleeds from all their orifices.
In last week’s episode, a deadly flu virus spread through the prison, walkers got in, illusions of youth were shattered, and two mysteries were introduced: who is feeding the walkers, and who set fire to two infected survivors?
It’s still flu season inside the prison, and the virus continues to run rampant, taking down more survivors while Glenn and Maggie are still digging fresh graves for last week’s casualty. The outbreak is an incredibly deadly enemy for the survivors to face, because not only does it make you bleed from your eyeballs, as Glenn points out, you can actually fight walkers and people. The flu, though, is invisible, untouchable, and can only be fended off with something they don’t have. As much as they may like to believe that what they have in the prison resembles civilization, it’s still not civilized, and they’re better-prepared to deal with an onslaught of zombies or another gang of survivors than they are illnesses, or contaminated water supplies. Right now, the scariest thing in The Walking Dead is the flu, and it threatens to wipe them all out.
At a close second is Tyreese. Standing over the immolated, still-smoking bodies of Karen and David, Tyreese, incensed, unleashes the beast all over Rick. Rick always seems to take the brunt of these outbursts, but let’s face it: he’s the authority figure, he’s the easiest one to blame. Although Tyreese has mostly played the part of the gentle giant, he’s an ex-football player, and as was hinted at once or twice in Season 3, there's a violent side beneath his cuddly exterior. Actor Chad L. Coleman (veteran of The Wire), who looks well over six-three and two-hundred-fifty-plus pounds, snaps into a berserker rage with such menace, paranoid racists in states with Stand Your Ground laws probably shot their TVs, then immediately called their lawyers to craft cover-up stories.
But, as always, the real scariest thing in The Walking Dead is Rick. After Daryl finally grabs Tyreese, Rick unleashes a beating on the grieving man so vicious, he breaks his own hand. Once again, Andrew Lincoln pulls up the white-hot, shaking rage that seems to always be percolating just under the surface of his performance, making it immediately clear that Rick is not handling things well. Having just taken up his gun again, having just renounced peace, he’s already giving in to his exasperation, cracking under pressure, and exerting his dominance over the survivors again.
Immediately, Rick is aware of the trouble he’s in, and as Hershel bandages his hand, Rick looks at his gunbelt for a moment, wistfully remembering those few months when he could pretend to be something other than a raging cauldron of violence. I like what they’re doing with his character so far, riffing on retired gunfighter themes, showing us that dark side again so early, and so earnestly. This episode was written by series creator Robert Kirkman, and I’d have to say that this version of Rick and Tyreese’s fight is better than the comic’s: it’s not as wild and over-the-top, but it’s much more emotionally resonant, more realistic, and more dramatic.
While the council discuss what to do about the flu, it’s apparent that things were even worse than we thought. Everyone in Block D who survived the walker attack were still infected by the flu, and the virus keeps spreading. They decide to send out a scout party to a veterinary college for antibiotics, and separate all the young and old who aren’t infected, but it might not matter: Sasha and Glenn have it too.
It’s especially worth noting that Glenn is sick, because he’s the first one that viewers really, really care about. We’ve hardly seen enough of Spencer or David to feel anything for them. Karen was a nice love interest for Tyreese, and as the only survivor of The Governor’s rampage, she had good potential, but probably not as much story potential given Tyreese’s current state. And Sasha, as strong and endearing as she is, is still pretty new, and fans would be able to shrug off her death in a few weeks.
Glenn, though… Glenn, as played by Steven Yeun, is probably the most likeable character in The Walking Dead. Killing him would send feces-covered spikes of devastation through the stomachs of everybody who watches. I doubt Glenn takes the hit on this one, though. The Walking Dead certainly has a reputation as a show willing to kill well-liked characters, but this early in the season, it’s a feint. But because the show clearly (and deservedly so) wants to build up Tyreese’s character, it’s probable that of the two, Sasha is more likely to go.
Carl and Rick’s relationship seems to have normalized to Season 3 status. As Rick asks Carl to look over the uninfected, he entrusts Carl with his gun, gives him more responsibility again, and succumbs to the horrific reality that in order to survive, his son has to be a killer too. Hershel, on the other hand, believes there’s still hope for a pacified Carl. As the two go outside the gates to look for herbal remedies, they come across two walkers that could each compete for “walker of the episode”: one that’s practically grown into a tree, and another hobbled by a bear-trap. Hershel, trying to find where Carl is at after shooting another kid at the end of last season, convinces Carl that he doesn’t have to do anything about them.
Hershel takes a big role in this episode in a quiet way. Scott Wilson has always been great as the altruistic bedrock that the survivors rest on, but in this episode he goes full-on Yoda, doling out subtle advice that everyone needs to hear. His clipped, subdued performance in “Isolation” makes a lot of hay out of one note, and the guy is so rustic whenever he speaks one can almost hear the swinging of a fence. As always, he does the right thing, entering the quarantine to treat the sick and teaching Rick and Maggie a thing or two. Hershel: bonafide.
Carol, however, is cracking. Part of her new role as a leader is making hard decisions, and she has some difficulty with them. She ferries – sometimes forces – the infected into their quarantine, and she successfully hides her emotions behind her mask. But when Libby, the girl she tried to give hard lessons to last episode, is also sick, and needs to be quarantined, she cries. Later, when Tyreese asks her to look over Sasha while he goes on the run for antibiotics, she says she’s sorry for what happened to Karen, kicking over a barrel of water after he leaves.
So we’ve all agreed that Carol burned David and Karen, right? It’s not long before Rick does too. Playing policeman again, he looks over the scene, maybe seeing something in the door. When Carol goes outside the fence on her own to fix a water pump, Rick definitely begins suspecting something. And apparently Rick is such a badass that, even though he hasn’t fired a gun in a few months, and his right hand is broken, just like in the comics, he shoots just as easily with his left, delivering a headshot like he was flicking a light switch. Gunfighter.
Daryl, Michonne, Bob the Alcoholic, and Tyreese go on the run to the veterinary hospital, and while speeding down the road, Daryl picks up a faint radio signal, the only audible word being “alive.” It’s a significant moment, the first sign of any kind of communication from the world at large. Of course, the moment doesn’t last long, and Daryl, not remembering what happened to Laurie in Season 2, runs smack dab into a walker. And then another. And another and another, until the hunting party gets stuck at the edge of the biggest herd of walkers we’ve ever seen.
After the car spins its tires on a pile of walkers – bravo, gentlemen! – Michonne, Bob, and Daryl make for the woods, but Tyreese sits, near-catatonic as the walkers assemble on the car. Giving in with a look like “life is terrible, here we go,” he flies into another berserker rage and ball-peens the crap out of everything in sight. Again, Coleman is frightening, moving like a wild animal and unleashing blood-curling yawps of destruction. He somehow fights his way through the walkers and catches up with the people who just left him for dead, spent.
Because Hershel is kind and loveable, The Walking Dead marks him as a possible victim as well. While treating Doctor S., he gets blood coughed all over his empathetic face. Hershel, as ever, takes it with a grain of salt, calmly wiping the blood off with his handkerchief and going on to lend strength to Glenn. Bona. Fide.
And Rick, having seen enough of Carol today, questions her about David and Karen, at first gently. “Is there anything you wouldn’t do for the people here?” But when she answers no, he comes right out and asks if she immolated them.
Nonchalantly, with only the slightest hint of sadness, she answers yes. Like she was confirming her Taco Bell order on the day her dog died.
And I called that, by the way.